The habit I couldn’t establish with willpower alone

Two years ago I signed up for my first Hello Mornings challenge. I started off slowly, waking up only 5 minutes earlier than my boys. Then a few weeks later I moved my wake-up time a little earlier…15 minutes before the boys woke up.  I only lost a few minutes of sleep, but I gained a whole new direction to my day.

Then on Valentines Day 2011, I “celebrated” by going to bed at 7:30 p.m. with a fever, chills and aches. For the next week I was bed-ridden with the flu…awful. (my heart goes out to all the mommas who have been hit by the flu virus this year).

Only a month into the Hello Mornings challenge, the flu bug knocked me off my new routine and I stopped checking in on Twitter.

You know who noticed? My accountability captain, Kat Lee, that’s who. 

katandme

photo credit goes to Kat…since I couldn’t find a pic of us on my computer

Kat, a.k.a. my mom coach**, sent me a sweet direct message checking to see if I was okay and if there was anything she could pray for me. Seriously.

Having the author of “Maximize your Mornings” and creator of www.inspiredtoaction.com contact you personally to see if you needed anything because she noticed you hadn’t been up lately…yeah that will get your bottom back in gear.  

If you’ve ever considered waking up a little before your kids, but haven’t signed up for the challenge because you figured you’d be disciplined enough on your own. Let me tell you, if I had done it on my own I would not have established the habit I have now.

Accountability. Positive peer pressure. Community.

Whatever you want to call it, we need people. We need godly people in our lives to spur us on in this walk. God never intended us to pursue Him alone. He created the world with His Son and the Spirit. From before time began, there was community in the Trinity.

(In case this story scares you from joining HelloMornings…don’t be scared. The challenge is set-up to be self-directed with as much support as you desire. If you stop checking in after two weeks and decide you can’t finish the challenge, no one will force you to continue. But if you desire women to come alongside you and encourage you to keep trying even when you didn’t wake early one morning…than this group is for you.)

God is working all around me. He is not waiting on me to get His work done. I have to decide if I am going to join Him in His work. In order to hear His personal calling on my life, I must meet with Him.

I’d love if you joined me this Winter/Spring in meeting with God. Registration started yesterday and the challenge starts January 28th. May we experience the joy of His presence together! (one of the primary goals I have for us here at God Centered Mom this year!).

**A coach is defined as “a private tutor; one who instructs or trains; instructs players in the fundamentals and directs team strategy.” That’s Kat. You feel like it’s a private tutoring session when you read her posts. She gives you a new strategy to approach motherhood. She encourages moms to stretch themselves to pursue greatness. Because our kids already think we are great, we just need to believe it!  

Kat inspired me to wake up for my children. She encouraged me to spend one-on-one time with my boys. She gave me the idea to have my boys do push-ups when they need some discipline. She introduced to my new favorite meal planning program. Let’s just say she’s pretty much the best mom coach ever!! 

Who do you have in your life to keep you accountable? Have you ever shared a new goal with a friend so she would “hold you” to it? 

Im-Maximizing-My-Mornings-300

Pst, one more thing…wrote more about my Hello Mornings story over at the MOB Society this week. Talking about how to stay one step ahead of our boys (also applicable to girls). 😉

onestepahead

 

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you love what you know

Marketers get it. Kids love what they know.

The other day Price said, “How come every toy they give at McDonald’s is from a movie?”

To which I responded, “Because if you play with the toy and see movie posters hanging everywhere, when the movie comes out you beg your mom and dad (relentlessly) to see it.”

Quade’s music teacher shared the same idea with me: Children love what they know.  She hoped her students would know and then love quality music. She wanted us to play classical music in our homes. To sing hymns during family worship (wish I could say we have formal times of family worship). She claimed the more quality music they knew, the more they would crave it.  I honestly didn’t believe her.

Let’s call a spade a spade. My husband is a big alternative rock fan. I’m partial to top 40 dance hits. Of course our boys have heard their fair share of pop culture music. After-dinner dance parties occur frequently. But sitting around singing hymns? Choosing to listen to Bach over Muse? Just couldn’t picture it.

Then it happened. While eating Eggos & squeezable yogurt, Quade and Price began singing, “Be thou my vision oh Lord of my life….” I almost dropped my coffee mug.

Soon after, Quade asked, “Mom, do we own a hymnal?” (yes my jaw dropped to the floor).

Having recently cleaned out our extra office/storage/random room, I vaguely remembered seeing an old college hymn book. I dusted it off and handed it to the boys. They immediately sat down and flipped through the pages. Quade exclaimed, “I found it! I found it! Oh for a thousand tongues to sing!”

Price asked, “Mommy will you play the music on the piano for us?” I stood with my mouth wide open. Because before today, every time I played the piano they yelled, “STOP that loud sound! You are being too noisy. Stop mommy. Stop!!!”

In awe and excitement, I securely placed the stiff hymnal up on the piano music ledge, balancing it perfectly to keep my spot. As I pushed down the staccato chords, instead of “stop it!!!”, I heard sweet little boy voices singing gorgeous poetry honoring God. Were these the same boys I had labeled “wild” and “out-of-control”?

A few weeks ago when I came home from my conference, I found this sitting on the kitchen counter: 

Quade had carefully tabbed all his favorite hymns.

So apparently McDonalds and the music teacher were right, kids love what they know.

I argue the same is true for adults.

I didn’t know I liked to crochet until a family friend took the time to teach me. Years later when I picked back up the yarn & crochet hook, I had to study and learn the acronyms for each stitch so I could read a pattern. My love grew as I knew more and could crochet more.

As a little church-going, good-girl, I could list off all the books of the Bible, forwards…and backwards (no kidding). But knowing the labels for the books of the Bible is not the same as knowing the author the Bible. The more I knew Him through reading His words, the more I grew to love Him.

Now I crave time with Him…because I love Him. Not because I have to spend time with Him. It’s not a requirement. I’m motivated because I know Him. I love what I know.

The more you study His plan from Genesis to Revelation you can’t help but be drawn to Him. He is seeking to make all things new. To redeem that which has been broken. To bring us back to Himself. He loves us that much.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

What is something you know and, therefore, love?

We each only have 24 hours in every day to learn and to know, what are you focusing on knowing? 

Three Ways to Be Still

It appears (from the comments on my last post) that it’s not just me who desires to sit at God’s feet. It’s not just me who struggles to find time to “be still” in the midst of full schedules & endless demands. So I’d like to dedicate this post to brainstorming ways to “be still”. Here are a few of my ideas and I’d love for you to share yours in the comments.

First Thing

In college I took a personal finance course (random I know, but there is a good point here). Our professor, who retired by the age of 35, told us one way to save & gain financial freedom is to: “PAY YOURSELF FIRST” (after tithing of course…).

What he meant was before you pay bills, mortgage, buy groceries, you should set aside money from your pay check and save it in the bank. He drew the picture of a line of people at your door needing/wanting your money. There will always be places and ways to spend money. If you don’t pay yourself first you will spend all your money before you save a dime.

I picture the same is true with time with God. There are a line of people, needs,  & demands waiting for me each day. It’s not like after I’ve fed my children, done all the laundry, checked email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, watched all my shows on the DVR…I’m going to say, “Now that all that’s done I feel like sitting down with my Bible and praying.” Not going to happen.

Extrapolating from his “pay yourself first” motto, I would use the motto, “BE STILL FIRST.”

I don’t want to be legalistic or strict… but if you want to know God & you have a life full of distractions…perhaps in order to be still you have to sit at His feet before life starts barging in.

I don’t think God needs an hour-long, 10 page, in-depth Bible study to connect with your heart. I do think some time is better than no time. Try getting up 5 minutes earlier than you usually do. Just 5 minutes.

In those 5 minutes begin with this prayer:

“Lord your servant is listening”

Then open your Bible and read one verse. Read it 5x. Ask God to show you through His spirit what He wants you to hear for today. Perhaps that little sip of living water will drive you to wake up again the next morning 5 minutes earlier…

John 4:13-14 “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'”

Midst of the Mayhem

I have four children. I know being still is the farthest thing from my reality once they all wake up. But it’s when they are awake I need to know God is my ever present help. It’s in the daily activities when I react in anger, get overwhelmed and anxious.

You may have heard me share about Susanna Wesley who threw her apron over her head in times of prayer. I think it’s a fabulous idea.

A friend shared with me a modern-day version of praying in the midst of the mayhem. She found there were two “trigger” times in her day: 7-10 am & 4-7 pm.

During those three-hour chunks of time she set alarms on her phone to go off every twenty minutes. When she sets the alarm she also types in the label portion (which normally reads “alarm”)…the words, “Rest in God”. Love. it.

Every twenty minutes a little chime went off reminding her to rest in God & pray. Apparently her children quickly picked up on these chimes and the effect they had on their mom. What a great model for her kids?

Personal Retreat

Not only should I start each day being still in His presence before demands come in or attempt to be still in the midst of the mayhem…ideally, once a week, I’d like to spend a large chunk of time in prayer and the Word.

Another friend of mine stays home and homeschools her three children. Since she doesn’t get a “break” during the week, she has set up a little personal retreat for herself every Friday night.

She has dinner ready and on the table. When her husband walks in the door after work on Friday, she walks out. Then she heads to La Madeline or Cafe Express (or some other fun little restaurant) by herself. Sometimes she may stare at her water glass for the first 20 minutes. But eventually she spends time planning, reflecting and being still with her Creator God.

What ways have you found to “be still” in the midst of busy lives & schedules? I would love to learn from one another in this space. Click here to comment. 

Linking up over at:

holy experience

the one thing I can’t live without. seriously.

I’ve told you how awesome it is. I’ve told you how out-of-sync I feel when I DON’T do it.

Today I’m sharing how I truly cannot live (the way I want to live) without morning time with God. Since January of 2011 (for 1 1/2 years), I’ve risen early, headed to my leather chair and spent time in worship and His Word. Not because I’m “holier” than you are. Or God loves me more. Or I’m more disciplined. Nope. I do it because I desperately need to.

HelloMornings

It’s a Christian cliché–‘morning devotions’. If you grew up in the church you may roll your eyes or even feel a tinge of guilt when those words (‘morning  devotions’) are uttered. I imagine you saying, “I know, I know. I’m supposed to wake up and pray and read my Bible. But I love sleep. I have 72 young children. I am exhausted all. the. time. I just can’t wake up early. Stop making me feel bad about it. Alright?”

My response is, “That may work for you. But I’ve found I HAVE to get up early. If I don’t my whole life suffers. It is NOT worth those extra 40 minutes of sleep.”

The past couple weeks I have stayed up uber-late watching Olympics, taking care of ministry needs and following Jon Acuff and Jen Hatmaker on Twitter (really important things). When I stay up late the last thing I want to do is get up early (oh and sometimes I have a baby who wants to eat in the middle of the night). 

I didn’t think it would be a big deal. Just a few days of sleeping in. But then it became a habit…the wrong kind of habit.

I left myself open for lies because I wasn’t daily filling with Truth. My cup emptied quickly because I hadn’t filled up with the Living Water. Every where I turned someone else needed a piece of me, but there weren’t even scraps to offer. I cracked. In the drive-thru line of Bubbas after church, I lost it. Like for reals.

When my boys kept asking, “Why are you crying mommy?” I finally responded, “I’m sad.” Then their question, “Why are you sad?” made me stop my mommy tantrum and think.

Why am I sad. What is sooooo important to make me this sad? I realized it wasn’t really an event or problem that “made” me sad. It wasn’t earth shattering life events. It was just normal life. The true problem was how I was reacting to it. I wasn’t handling life well because I was trying to handle it by myself.

I hadn’t been resting in His all-sufficient, mighty hands. I hadn’t been sitting in His presence. I hadn’t seen myself through His eyes, but found my value in how others see me. I had made the temporary important and neglected the eternal.

Realizing how desperately dependent I am on my time with God I’ve made a commitment to my husband, and asked friends for prayer, to rise early. And in that time I will spend more face-to-face time with the One True God, not distracted by social media.

Fortunately my official accountability starts up again August 20th with the fall HelloMornings challenge. Like I’ve told you 20 billion times before Kat Lee changed my life for the better with her Maximize Your Mornings eBook (go read it).

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3

If you have less than 72 children, you feel out-of-control, you need some structure, you feel pulled in 42,000 different directions, then join me in “waking up for your children, not to your children” (Kat Lee) and spending time in His Word. I’ll be checking in using the #hellomornings hashtag on Twitter. If you click on this link–> Fall HelloMornings Challenge, you can sign up for a group in your time zone either on Twitter or Facebook.

What’s keeping you from waking up early to “Meet with Him”? Share in the comments section if you’ve joined over 2,600 women in this Hellomornings Challenge.

*There was a LOT of hyperbole in this post, but that last number (2,600) wasn’t made up. Isn’t God awesome? Will you say a prayer right now for those leading this challenge and the Accountability Captains guiding women? One thing Satan doesn’t want is for 2,600 women to be reading God’s Word every morning and using His Strength to love & guide their families. Thanks.

Few Favorites Friday: Fractured Foot Edition

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

A friend shared this verse with me when I was extremely discouraged. My response was: “Does it count if instead of “walking uprightly” I walk leaning slightly forward? Using crutches I’m more like 20 degrees off upright.” =)

I’m trying. This has been a challenging week…not in the way I thought it would be. Before I got my “diagnosis”, I was dreading another week home with the boys without my husband. Ready to be exhausted by responsibilities, whining, solo-discipline, etc. Instead it’s been a different kind of hard. I can’t do what I normally do. I’ve had to adjust my entire way of doing things. I can’t even be home alone with the boys. Another adult must be here to help me.

There were few things that I selfishly enjoyed that I can no longer: Dance class (where the injury occurred), working out in general, quiet time in my big leather chair downstairs. My dear friend encouraged me that I can still enjoy those things just in a new way.

My #hellomornings time has been happening in my bed…not ideal but it’s still happening. My exercise is now swinging my huge body on crutches. I’ve been able to sit and enjoy my boys. Filling their love language of quality time instead of service. And the biggest favorite of the week:

1. My Mother-in-law

Thank the Lord for my mother-in-law. She has done the jobs of both myself and my husband this week (laundry, trash, meal prep & clean-up, helping with sick kids, putting boys to bed). Without a single complaint she has served our family. She also brought joy & laughter into our home.  I’m so very thankful for her this week.

2. Breakfast in Bed

Remember in my post from Monday when I was upset because my husband didn’t make me breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day? Well, because of my injury my MIL served me breakfast in bed every day this week (be careful what you wish for!).

3. Highland Park ER 

The stand-alone emergency room we visited on Mother’s Day is definitely on my favorites list. If you are in the downtown Dallas area you should consider using the Highland Park ER for your next emergency. They are open 24 hours, 7 days a week. We were the only people in there, so I was seen immediately. They had a keurig machine, people! The staff were helpful and friendly. Now I may change my opinion when we get the bill… 

4.  Giant Bubbles 

One afternoon we mixed up this fun bubble solution…find the recipe here: Giant Bubbles.

We just made a 1/4 of the solution…we didn’t need 12 cups floating around.

Boys loved adding the ingredients…like a science experiment. They were blowing HUGE bubbles. Super fun. Highlight of the week.

5. Homemade Journal & 1000gifts…

I gave this gift combo to teachers last year. I’ve given it to my mom & MIL for Mother’s Day last year. I’ve given it to all my friends at Christmas. So I was a little nervous giving it as a gift this year. The book has been around for awhile & on the New York Times best seller list for over half a year. Thankfully NONE of the 5 teachers I gave “One Thousand Gifts” to, had read it!

This year when making the journal I got creative.

I wanted to buy new scrapbook paper & ribbon. However my injury prevented that from happening. To the 99cent composition book I glued a cute piece of scrapbook paper to the front. Glued a ribbon along the paper & binding. Then for the back, I glued a piece of plain scrapbook paper on which the boys painted their handprints. Turned out great!

6. Summer Celebration

Heard at a MOPs session that on the last day of school we should celebrate the start of summer. Telling our children how much we look forward to spending time with them, learning new skills, taking trips. So, with my walking boot & crutches I headed over to Dollar Tree. Spending less than $10 I got each of the boys:

  • Sunglasses
  • Water shooters (those tube shooters)
  • Spiderman helium-filled mylar balloon

7. No-slip, No-crease Hair ties–Amber
My super sweet, super fashion-forward friend Amber sent me her favorite thing. It’s elastic silk hair ties!
“They are absolutely wonderful. They don’t leave a crease in your hair when you take it down! You can find them at little boutique shops, but they can get pricey.  I found them on Etsy for cheaper!  Love, Love, Love!”
Here is the link to the Etsy shop: TuToo Cute TuTu’s

What were your favorites this week?

Few Favorites Friday: Home Alone edition

On Monday I shared that my husband Bruce would soon be going out of town…the truth is he had already left that Sunday afternoon and was gone this week. Fortunately, he arrived back safely last night. Whew. We survived. There were definitely moments that I hope my children block from their memories (don’t know if I will ever forgive forget them myself).

One lesson I learned this week is the value of community & allowing community to step in and help. A few gifts of grace:

  • Phone call from my mentor reminding me: “This is the day the Lord has made…” Which helped me focus on seeing the positive in my day.
  • Offers to have us over for dinner or bring us dinner.
  • Enough food from one friend that fed me for 6 meals!
  • A kind dad at Pump it Up who included my boys while he played with his own child (they needed some big jumping, wild, fun).
  • The worker at Pump it Up who let me slide down the big slide with my boys without wearing the required socks.
  • New exhibit at the Nature & Science Museum…great conversations with the boys about weather.
  • A sister who came over…held Knox while I put the boys to bed, then folded laundry for me.
  • Knowing all the people who I could call and they would help me in a heartbeat.

Here are a few more specific favorites:

1. Frito Salad:

My friend Kari brought us a yummy salad this week. I thought I would share it with y’all because it’s pretty simple, delicious…& just a little naughty. 😉

2. Pizza Making {Mommy Break}

This week I got a text from one of our babysitters. She asked if she and her fiance could come over and make pizza with the boys for dinner. I answered with a: “Um, yes! Yes you can!”

She texted me the day before asking what kind of pizza they liked. When they arrived she looked at me and said, “We’ve got this, you can go do whatever you need to do….even if it’s just sit down & breathe.” <—an angel in disguise, right?

I went upstairs to fold laundry (which did require me to sit down & rest). A few times I snuck downstairs to snap some pictures of their work in progress:

Making Dough

Spreading the Sauce

Voila! Mac Brothers’ Pizza (coming to a street near you!)

Our sweet sitter (& fiance) also completely cleaned the kitchen & took the trash out to the alley! Truly gave me the boost of energy I needed. Amazing.

3. Hot Chocolate & God

During the #hellomornings* Spreecast (basically a video conference call with 78 other women!), Kat Lee ( from inspiredtoaction.com) shared a super idea. One of the participants asked: what should she to do if her child wakes up while she is  having her early morning quiet time? (remember #hellomornings is waking up FOR my kids, not TO my kids).

Kat shared how when that happens she makes her kiddos hot chocolate. They grab a Bible/books to read through. Then they chose a name written on a stick of someone they will pray for.

Well, on Wednesday I told my boys about this idea and they loved it. We wrote names on popsicle sticks and placed them in a jar labeled “prayer”. The next morning, since Bruce was out-of-town, we all sat at the table. They had their hot chocolate and Bibles, I had my tea and Bible. For about 5 minutes we sat and focused our hearts on God.

To be honest I didn’t think such a thing would be possible with 3 boys. However, they proved me wrong. It wasn’t the deepest, most meaningful quiet time I’ve ever had. But it was the sweetest. I will treasure these pictures…

*If you are curious about #hellomornings…check it out here or the link on my side-bar. Sign-ups for the Summer Session are going on now. Session runs from May 14th thru July 8th.

4. Little Lights Missionary Biographies” by Catherine MacKenzie–Ashley

 My friend Ashley (who has 3 adorable little girls) sent me this favorite. I definitely want to check them out & buy some for our “hot chocolate hellomornings”.

“These biographies are sold separately. There are eight books in the series, including biographies about: Amy Carmichael, George Muller, Corrie Ten Boom, David Livingston, and Hudson Taylor. I would recommend them for ages 4 and up. Each book is about 24 pages long and presents the gospel beautifully. I adore children’s books and have many favorites on our bookshelf. I love how these tell true stories about brave men and women who gave so much of themselves in order to further the Kingdom. Good for kids to read some nonfiction!”

What were some of your favorites this week? What are your survival strategies when your husband travels?